Adding a fairy-tale cast to a generic horror setup is of no benefit to “Hunted,” Vincent Paronnaud’s unpleasant merger of slasher movie and survival thriller.
Claiming kinship with the fable of Little Red Riding Hood, the story introduces Eve (Lucie Debay), who will serve as both victim and heroine. Recently arrived in an unfamiliar town to manage a construction project, Eve — rather obviously sporting a crimson, hooded jacket — ducks her demanding boss and heads to a bar. When a skeevy, stubbled stranger (Arieh Worthalter) guides her from dance floor to waiting car, her reckless acquiescence to his wolfish charm is baffling. Until we factor in her bellyful of mojitos.
The situation rapidly deteriorates as Eve’s nameless acquaintance and his submissive accomplice (Ciaran O’Brien) dump her in the trunk and head into the forest, where she promptly escapes. A foul video recording of a previous abduction energizes abuser number one, while a dose of Viagra promises to restore the other’s flagging resolve. Mounting injuries and oddball encounters accompany their lengthy and increasingly absurd pursuit; yet as Eve’s behavior grows more feral — and Debay’s physical exertions more breathtaking — “Hunted” fails to shake off its greasy grindhouse stink.
Swerving from surrealism to sadism, “Hunted” sees no upside to establishing characters before weaponizing them. By recognizing the bestial in both sexes, the movie may recall Neil Jordan’s 1985 film, “The Company of Wolves” (based on Angela Carter’s sublime short story of the same name). Unisex violence, however, isn’t necessarily more satisfying: Sometimes, it’s just more sickening.
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 27 minutes. Watch on Shudder.